Key Issues Facing East Asia – (Video Interview with Dr. Tun-jen Cheng)

Memo #67 (Scroll below to see 4 Video Clips, 1 to 2 min each) (One Video Clip in Mandarin)

Tun-jen Cheng – tjchen [at]

In this interview, Dr. Tun-jen Cheng discusses a range of key issues facing East Asia today, including religion, governance, economics, and politics. When speaking about a religious revival in China, Dr. Cheng notes that Christianity is accepted by many new middle class urbanites as a source of inspiration and a symbol of modernity and greatness. Dr. Cheng then gives an account of the challenges facing East Asian democracies. Most notably, he mentions the public’s complaints about the shortage of horizontal accountability – the checks and balances between various branches and units of government. Nonetheless, he concludes that East Asian democracies are quite robust when compared to systems in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Dr. Cheng also compares economic successes between authoritarian systems and democracies. He mentions that developmental-oriented authoritarian systems, such as South Korea under Park Chung-hee (1961-1979), had very high economic growth rates. But predatory authoritarian systems will bring negative economic performance. Democracies in general bring average performances, but are generally reliable, making them a reasonable choice of governance.

Tun-jen Cheng – Class of 1935 Professor, Government, The College of William & Mary.

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Part 1 – Religious Revival in China (1:10 min)

Part 2 – Is East Asian Democracy in Trouble? (1:40 min)

Part 3 – Economic Success: Authoritarian Systems vs. Democracies (1:09 min)

Part 4 – South Korea as the Middle Power of the 21st Century (1:13 min)

Part 4 (in Mandarin) – 韩国是二十一世纪的中等强权吗? (1:08 min)


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Asia Pacific Memo is published by the Institute of Asian Research (IAR) at The University of British Columbia. Distributed weekly, we feature 350 word essays or video interviews on contemporary Asia.